Default 缺省 – Life in a Vacuum
Default don’t so much redefine the shoegaze genre as they fully inhabit it and more importantly, take it to higher ground, wielding its full potential. Leaning heavily into the larger-than-life sound that Slowdive, Ride and various other bands from the 90s built for generations to come, there’s something defiant about how the young Beijing band takes the genre by the horns and commits fully to the transformative power of it. Jam-packed with atmospheric psychedelic-tinted, reverb-soaked melodies that demand to be turned up at full volume, it’s an album rich in texture, and visceral in its emotional heft – leaving you shaken and stirred. While by no means a perfect album, Default have shot for the moon on their debut – and in time I think it’ll be considered watershed moment for shoegaze in China.
Steven’s Life – Steven’s Life
Steven’s Life — consisting of Lao Jiang, formerly of the indie pop band Lonely Cookies, is a lo-fi throwback to the love-stricken singles that populated the airwaves in the 50s. While its city pop gloss-over are very much present, it’s heart is in the classic love songs of yesteryear, the slow dance song played at your grandma’s 1955 high school prom (think Sam Cooke or The Flamingos). It basks in the swaying melodies and high-pitched vocalizations that made those hits so timeless while modernizing them with a beachside looseness and an indie pop pulpiness that goes down nice and smooth (there’s even a breezy cover of Mando-pop singer HanBaoyi’s ‘Pink Memories’). It’s swift in disarming you, and before you know it you’re snuggling right up with it.
Cut Frenzy – 二
Sometimes all one needs in life is so good ol’ fashion, pedal to the metal, abrasive punk rock that socks it to you. That’s where Cut Frenzy comes in – the multi-national punk band who reside in the frigid northeast city of Harbin. Propelled by lead singer and drummer Shaun Handlen’s barreling vocals and a band that’s not afraid to lean into their instruments, their debut is loud, anxious, robust, unruly and heaps of fun. There’s a deep love for the genre within the fast and furious tracks – performed through gritted teeth and dragged across the pavement – that feels above all, genuine. There’s no posing here, simply punk’s bleeding heart sprawled across the floor. Dig in.